Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Who's Burying the UFT?

There's an interesting piece in the Daily News speculating as to the erosion of power in the UFT. Ironically, it shows UFT President Mulgrew with John Liu, likely as not elected as a direct result of the UFT's help.  (And I'm reading that UFT-supported Tony Avella won, too, coming back from over 20 points behind, so people may think twice about our demise.)

The UFT is far from dead, but its leadership, particularly ex-President Randi Weingarten, has not been able to refrain from weakening it since Mayor Mike got in.

They supported mayoral control, an unmitigated disaster for teachers and union, and then supported it again come renewal time. Aside from earning the admiration or teacher-bashers like Rod Paige for Ms. Weingarten, I fail to see the upside in that. Mayoral control as practiced here amounts to dictatorship. Though voices like Patrick Sullivan add spice to the PEP, they're essentially a rubber stamp. Its majority are mayoral appointees subject to being fired if they dissent.

Last year, the UFT failed to step up and oppose Mayor Bloomberg.  This was an egregious error.  There's not one iota of gratitude in this man for our neutrality, and had we taken the bold stand of opposing him, we might have someone less hostile in City Hall.  

UFT leadership supported a contract in 2005 that gave away absolutely every professional gain city teachers had made since I started in 1984. They stood firm against value-added, then supported it becoming part of state-mandated evaluation. They participated in a value-added study with Bill Gates, saying it was vital we be part of that conversation, and then helped negotiate a value-added rating system before the study had concluded.

I've seen Randi Weingarten in action, quick on her feet when she visited my school. It was abundantly clear she was the smartest person the room, which makes me scratch my head every time I see yet another lackluster media performance from her. Then, she invites Bill Gates to be keynote speaker at her convention, and not only encourages but also participates in ridiculing working teachers who don't appreciate the self-styled education expert.  Union hacks preached it was smart to engage our opponents.

Of course, it's wise to engage your opponents.  Talk to them.  Try to make them see the light.  But Bill Gates is an enemy of public education, constantly spouting ideas that have no basis in research.  While they delight his corporate buddies like Eli Broad and the Wal-Mart family, they benefit neither working people nor their children.  You don't see GW Bush giving the keynote at the Democratic convention, and you shouldn't see the biggest "reformer" in the nation addressing the AFT either.

If we're dying, we have no one to blame but ourselves. It was not Joel Klein, much as his megalomania compels him to take credit. In fact, we enabled Joel Klein, who suggested and therefore created Michelle Rhee.   It's time for the UFT to stop celebrating demagogues who delight in the firing of teachers based on nonsense.  It's time for the UFT to stand up to Rhee, Klein, Bloomberg, Obama, Cuomo, all the idiot filmmakers, and all the mythology left in their wake.

In short, it's time for us to be a union again.   Let's continue to make bold steps like getting behind Tony Avella.  Let's continue to support those who support us, and for goodness sake, let's vigorously oppose those who don't.
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